My A to Z of Arran by Lu Dong – part 1

M is for Mandarin. Miss Dong welcomes pupils to her Mandarin class.

Want to read more?

We value our content and our journalists, so to get full access to all your local news updated 7-days-a-week – PLUS an e-edition of the Arran Banner – subscribe today for as little as 48 pence per week.

Already a subscriber?


Subscribe Now


As she prepares to return to China Lu Dong, Hanban teacher with North Ayrshire Confucius Classroom Hub, reflects on what has made her experience on Arran so special. Lulu lived and worked on the island for two as a Mandarin teacher. This is her Arran – letter by letter – part 1

Main story

A is for Arran, an amazing island in the Firth of Clyde, nicknamed Scotland in Miniature. Arran may not be a big city, but it is big enough for me to experience a lot. I’ve loved working and living on Arran for the past two years, with phenomenal friends and colleagues, unbelievably amazing, sparky kids, and a warm, inclusive, supportive community. How am I so lucky to be here on this lovely island?

B is for Brodick Primary School, the first school I went to on Arran and could not restrain my amazement at its loveliness! The farm trip made me realize how many different sounds the animals could make. The staff room conversation is always inspirational and considerate. Nothing makes me feel more inclusive than being invited to be part of the school group photo.

C is for Corrie Primary School, which threw my very first Halloween party and it made me feel like I was part of a large family. A lovely fuzzy feeling came over me when I was being hugged by the children and holding hands with the families. I will never forget the morning song and the “happy dance” with the children and staff to start that memorable Wednesday morning.

D is for Dreich, the first Scottish word I picked up but most frequently used. It is such an evocative word with the ability to explain the Scottish weather perfectly. I will definitely teach that specific vivid word to my pupils back in China.

E is for Enlightening, the adjective I’d like to use to describe the feeling that Arran schools impressed upon me. The comfortable teaching and learning environment enlightened my teaching in various ways: the shows, the parties, the trips, the treats, and so on. The surprises were hidden in every corner at the school waiting for me to uncover them. As long as they were uncovered, surprises would be changed into opportunities giving Lulu and Mandarin more ideas to shine.

F is for Friendly Folks, who are always willing to provide help whenever and wherever I need. The miraculous island cultivates people who are easygoing, amicable, helpful, and responsible. I am so grateful for all of the people who have supported me and encouraged me on my island adventure.

G is for Gratitude, words are powerless to express my gratitude, even though I am trying to do so.

H is for Haggis, the first authentic traditional Scottish Haggis that I have eaten was on Arran. It tasted not bad. Who said that Scottish people don’t eat stomach?

I is for Islander, which is the word I may proudly call myself after almost two years based on Arran. On my journey to becoming an islander, I’ve realized that the magical Arran nature is more like an ever-shifting kaleidoscope enticing me to twist it as I find myself fascinated by beautiful patterns

J is for Joyful, the word I’d like to use and depict Arran in general. Arran makes me believe she is a joyful little girl, who always says yes to life, and projects positivity to people all around it.

K is for Kilmory Primary School, who gave me a birthday surprise in the staff room. It will always be my best and most healing memories. The V-shaped gesture picture at Christmas is one of my favourite. By the way, the outdoor learning on the beach took me back to my childhood and I will never forget the experience of being chased by curious cows!

L is for Lamlash Primary School, who gave me the most special Chinese New Year. The fortune cookies, the dragon dance, the New Year gift, the red envelope with real money in it, their effort was impressive. Thanks for everything you have done, pulling me out of the homesickness I was drowning in. You also gave me the chance I have always wanted, to eat noodles and rice just by hand.

M is for Mandarin, the language I taught makes me the very first Mandarin teacher bound closely to all eight schools across the lovely island. “Mandarin! The best class ever!” was heard many times, not because I look younger than my age, but because I led them into the adventurous world of Mandarin and of China. Numbers, colors, animals, self-introduction, and family members, we played panda games, we experienced Chinese New Year, we played shuttlecocks, we practiced chopsticks, we put on traditional Chinese Costumes like the Hanfu, and we made dumplings. Our adventures in class were all about the mysterious world of Mandarin and China.

  • See part two in next week’s Banner

E is for enlightenment. Miss Dong enjoys a school field trip. NO_B28china01

F is for friendly folks as Miss Dong finds at this book launch. NO_B28china02

G is for gratitude. Miss Dong at the opening of Scotland’s National Centre for Languages in Glasgow. NO_B28china03

G is for gratitude. A presentation at her leaving dinner, where there were some familiar faces. NO_B28china04

H is for haggis. Miss Dong enjoyed her first haggis on Arran. NO_B28china05

I is for islander. A word Miss Dong is proud to call herself. NO_B28china06

J is for joyful. Miss Dong had a happy time. NO_B28china07

M is for Mandarin. Children use chopsticks to learn Chinese words. NO_B28china08

M is for Mandarin. Miss Dong welcomes pupils to her Mandarin class. NO_B28china09